Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Five Comedies, seen recently

  • The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009): Hollywood comedies fall into some distinct genres, and this one is the male-bonding one. Distinctly misogynistic (and celebrating the blessed stance in which males piss), it revolves around three friends and a sub-human comic relief who get sloshed out one night in Vegas. When comedy is not situational but depends upon characters or, even more pathetically, upon the race or gender of the character, it is time to doubt the inventiveness of the screenwriter. Stupidity and seeing someone piss improperly is fun, but it is a rather low kind of fun.

  • A Shock to the System (Jan Egleson, 1990): A delightful black comedy, even though venturing into some thriller aspects towards the end. Stories of comeuppance have a strange charm. The enormous popularity of Roahld Dahl's stories are a testament to this (I especially recommend Taste and Mrs Bixby's and the Colonel's Coat from The Best of Roald Dahl). Michael Caine is generally a very fine actor, and his subtle expressions have just the right amount of mockery as a protagonist in this film. Treated unfairly by those who think there is no Karma, here comes Graham Marshall! People treat him like there is no justice in the world, and he shows them, and boy how he shows them!

  • Stuck (Stuart Gordon, 2007): A black comedy in which you might flinch once or twice, this is a rather curious look at the lack of remorse in a professional caretaker. Beset with issues of her own, she delivers the best line of the film after she has tried and failed to kill a poor and under-utilized Stephen Rea: "Why are you doing this to me?" Mena Suvari has a face which looks quite naturally like someone who needs a good spanking from a catholic father (to put some morality into her, damn her locks!). And oh does she burn in hell. Dahl would again smile.

  • Teeth (Mitchell Lichtenstein, 2007): Speaking of Catholics, now this is something else. A film which finally makes fun of virginity in a way you can only shake your head at (with glee!), the tagline is entirely appropriate: "Every rose has its thorns." Very very underrated, and criminally overlooked, this deserves to be seen, if only for a lesson on what dogs really like to eat (pun intended).

  • Very Bad Things (Peter Berg, 1998): Highly recommended! This could have been (and fortunately, isn't) a male bonding type of comedy. The Hangover seems to be a lesser version of this. It is not that the characters react in an over-the-top manner, it is precisely because of the (quite human and entirely believable, mind you) distinct strain of stress in each character (and they all love each other) that this film is hilarious. It is also a cutting commentary on family life (husband and wife, parents and children, brother and brother). And what a character Christian Slater has in this film! The dialogues are a work of genius. Werner Erhard will be turning in his grave (if and when, of course) at the mockery of self-help and personal growth movement. The last scene begins as a pantomine by Cameron Diaz and becomes surreal in its intensity as it goes on. The misogyny is there, but it is more nuanced, and that is why it is more, ahem, fun.


Anonymous said...

Fish called Wanda, Some Like it Hot, Chaplin's Circus, Duck Soup.

Anonymous said...

Where do you rent these movies from...I have not even heard titiles of these.

Harmanjit Singh said...

The Hangover is currently running in India.

As for others, one has to be resourceful.

Anonymous said...

"Very Bad Things" .. horror and comedy. wow!

Anonymous said...

Werner Erhard is alive and kicking and laughing at the pettiness.

Anonymous said...

Taming of the Shrew (Burton/Taylor), A Comedy of Errors(BBC), Merry Wives of Windsor).

Anonymous said...

How to steal a million(O'Toole)

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed watching 'Shock to the System'. Actually this is my first gay film ever! Men becoming emotional like women? Whoa!

You've got any other gay/lesbian-film recommendations (that is not very superficial, but drama-like)?

More generally, just any other taboo-topic based film recommendations? :-)

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi srid, you must have watched

I was referring to the 1990 film (

:-) But if you enjoyed the former, who's complaining?

As for tickling your social self by watching transgressive films, I second your approach.

You should enjoy "Spanking the Monkey", "Bad Santa" and "Bad Lieutenant".

On a more serious note, "The Last Temptation of Christ" (Scorcese) and "Breaking the Waves" (von Trier) are great films which led to a lot of backlash. Both are highly recommended.